Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Louis Guillaume Otto, 29 April 1791

From Louis Guillaume Otto

Philadelphia, 29th April, 1791.


In consequence of orders which I have received from his Majesty, I have the honor herewith to transmit to you the law which fixes the disposition of the colours in the different kinds of flags, or other customary marks of distinction among ships of war and commercial vessels of the French nation. I request the favor of you to make this law known in the ports of the United States. And have the honour to be, With respectful attachment, Sir, Your most humble and Obedient servant,


Text of letter and enclosures from Brown’s Federal Gazette, 4 May 1791, no manuscript of either having been found in DNA: RG 59, NL or elsewhere. Enclosures: (1) Full text of the law of 31 Oct. 1790 as approved by Louis XVI in accordance with the decree of the National Assembly of 24 Oct. 1790 “Fixing the Disposition of the Colours in the different kinds of Flags, or other customary marks of distinction among ships of war, and commercial vessels,” consisting of six Articles and a command to all tribunals, administrative bodies, and municipalities to have the law “transcribed in their registers, read, published, and posted up in their respective districts and Departments, and to execute it as a law of the Kingdom.” The first Article, which displaced the Bourbon white flag with its fleursdelis and substituted for it the national tricolor, read: “The Jack shall be composed of three equal stripes and placed vertically: The one nearest the staff shall be red, the center one white, and the third blue.” (2) Proclamation of the King, 31 Oct. 1790, announcing the law of that date which determined the form of the French national flag, commanding all ships of war and commercial vessels to conform to its stipulations, and, after notification to foreign nations, forbidding all French vessels after 1 Apr. 1791 to use “any other than the National Flag.” In SJL, TJ recorded receipt of Otto’s letter and enclosures on 30 Apr. 1791.

Index Entries